Did you ever ‘wonder’ when the 360noBS.com Spotlight would fall on the legendary actor – Olu Jacobs & his 42 years+ spanned acting career. Well here’s our Third Eye on Olu Jacobs.
Fondly called Uncle Olu by his colleagues and massive fan base, Olu (Oludotun) Jacobs, the Ogun state-born international iconic actor, has left a massive mark in Nigeria’s movie industry. Born July 11 1942, Olu Jacobs has in his over 40 years acting experience, starred in several British & Nigerian television series and many Nollywood & international movies.
Olu Jacobs left Nigeria for England in 1964 to study at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, England. After graduating, he worked in various theatres in Britain.
Olu Jacobs then went on to star in various British television shows and series in the 1970s and early 1980s (e.g. Angels, The Tomorrow People, The Goodies, Till Death Us Do Part, Barlow at Large, The Venturers, Centre Play, The Crezz, 1990,The Professionals, Squadron).
His 1st international movie role was in Richard Fleischer‘s 1979 Ashanti. Olu Jacobs would go on to star in several international films in the 1980s. Some of which included the blockbuster movies – John Irvin‘s 1980 war film The Dogs of War, Roman Polanski‘s 1986 adventure-comedy Pirates and the 1985 family-adventure film Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend.
The legend – Olu Jacobs acting alongside Christoper Walken in the 1980 Blockbuster movie – Dogs of War.
Funny scene with python and the legend Olu Jacobs as the Pirate Spy Boomako in Roman Polanski‘s 1986 Blockbuster hit Pirates which also starred Walter Matthau
Another clip from Roman Polanski‘s Pirates (1986). In this scene Captain Red (Walter Matthau) orders Boomako (Olu Jacobs) to stand guard and count to 10,000.
He returned to Nigeria in the 80s and became a household name with the extremely popular TV series ‘Third Eye‘. His 1st Nigerian movie was Vigilante which also starred RMD and Mama D. A member of the National Theatre of Great Britain, he has featured in over 150 movies.
Jacobs is married to the long-serving Nollywood actress Joke Silva.
He has won several awards most notably the 2007 African Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and more recently he was honoured with the Industry Merit Award for his outstanding achievements in his acting career at the inaugural Africa Magic Viewers Movie Choice Awards which held on March 9, 2013
His infectious baritone and interpretation of roles are a director’s delight.
360Fam member Zainab Ikaz Kassim had a chat with him at the recently concluded AMVCA 2013 event.
Interview is below…
Zainab: How is life as a septuagenarian?
Olu Jacobs: It has given one the opportunity to start again.
Zainab: How does age affect your career in terms of role playing, characterization and stamina?
Olu Jacobs: Characterization? I can still do age 50 upwards, role playing? No change. Stamina? If one is reasonably fit, there will be no issue with stamina.
Zainab: Do you see a connection between this generation of actors and your generation of actors?
Olu Jacobs: There are a lot of connections. The difference I see is that we had very little opportunities. It was broken in the dark. Above all else, they are more impatient.
Zainab: For an actor that has been in this career for so long how will you say you reinvent yourself?
Olu Jacobs: One tries to keep ones machinery in order. (There is nothing beautiful that is not difficult and there is nothing difficult that cannot be made easy if you are interested.
Zainab: How was it for you to fuse your training with the Nigerian practice?
Olu Jacobs: The principles are the same, Unfortunately in Nigeria there are added challenges: lack of constant electricity, intimidation ..These things have to be contented with.
Zainab: How has this helped your career?
Olu Jacobs: It just meant i had to rise above . Challenges of such determine the strength of ones will power.
Zainab: What would you advise this generation of actors in terms of training?
Olu Jacobs: Training in any field is imperative. Education opens the doors of the mind. We must covey to the younger generation the need to expand the depth of their knowledge.
Zainab: With your wealth of knowledge and experience is there any medium you are using to pass down your knowledge to this generation of actors?
Olu Jacobs: My wife and I own a training institution; Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts where we instruct students on the fundamental principles of acting, Makeup, movement and dance , speech, improvisation and stage management. It is an imperative need to encourage the youth to grow the right way. We want graduating students to leave LAPA with training that will keep them employed in this industry and related industries.
Spotlight on Olu Jacobs
Jacob is no stranger to Nigerian movies. His charisma and manner of delivery of lines are legendary – drawing him admiration from fans.
His infectious baritone and interpretation of roles are a director’s delight. Having been in the industry for over 37 years, he is now a bridge between the old and the new, a motivator to the youths. Jacobs attended a drama school in England called The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. “After I finished, I worked with various repertoire theatres in Britain and I’m a member of National Theatre of Great Britain. I worked with some of the television stations in London and at a stage, I decided to come back home because I felt I have reached a certain level in my field and that my country had the potential of being so great too. So, I came back to Nigeria in early 80s and we started Third Eye”. Like many of his colleagues, his family was not happy with young Jacobs when he chose to study Dramatic Arts. But even at the age when actors were seen as never do wells of the society, he knew what he wanted and stuck to it. “ I left Nigeria in 1964. Then, there was nobody in Nigeria to look up to, all the people I looked at were people outside the country. The entertainment profession was not professional as such in Nigeria then and the only professional company we had was Ogunde and he inspired me a lot. Before then, my brothers used to take me to cinemas and I used to enjoy myself a lot. I was also taking part in school plays and drama. But when I said I was going to study drama, my parents did not like it and my dad said, ‘no’. When I got to England I wrote him a lengthy letter and said, sorry, I was going to study Drama. And because I had already started, he gave in. when I came back, there was no home movies in the country, it was stressful and the fees of artist was very low. NTA was only beginning to increase the fees of artists and people were only getting interested in acting. Meanwhile, my own company was doing stage plays and documentaries. Gradually, series on television started properly before we entered the home movies. It was stressful then.”
The Ogun state-born actor would not say how much he was paid for his first role but said it was very low and not encouraging at all.
“The first movie I did was produced by AA production and it was called Vigilante. We were paid very little for it and starred RMD and Mama D.
We had problems then looking for locations because people were not used to giving out their homes to people. They were very suspicious and we had to write letters to the Association of Landlords telling them what we were doing, where and when we would do it, for them to be aware.
Jacobs also disclosed how his friends tried to discourage him from acting because they believed acting was not a profession and should only be taken as a hobby. “People enjoyed it then but did not respect it. They enjoyed it, yes, but you have to get another job, they would tell you it’s not a job. But all my life, I’ve done nothing else except acting and productions. It is a profession, that is what I want people to understand. I had a friend who actually wanted me to help run a company, then. I asked him if he wanted me to be happy and he said, yes.
I told him to invest in a company for us to do productions. But, unfortunately, the company did not see the light of the day. I also had few friends that believed in me and gradually the society started catching up with the fact that it is an honorable profession and not for dropouts. But when I want to do something, nobody stops me and that was why I went to England to learn how to do it properly and help my country.
“Before I left secondary school I’d made up my mind to study the performing arts. I grew up in Kano and I saw Ogunde’s troupe the first time they visited Kano. I pestered my father to the point that he agreed to take me to the performance. It was very vivid and it affected me. Everybody member of the audience was happy. People were laughing and it was coming from the soul and it was genuine. I decided that I was also going to make people happy. My father objected to the idea but my mother supported me. I lost him when I left for England and unfortunately, he never saw me on stage professionally. My early years were busy. We were eight and we had cousins and house helps. It was a very boisterous household and our father had control of things. He was working with SCOA as the regional manager in Kano. I like to contribute to people’s lives. We were encouraged by our parents to be involved in people’s lives. I grew up a devote Catholic. I was an altar boy before my voice broke. I used to polish all the brass in church. It was something I found very fulfilling. Our father was strict, very in control of things initially but later he made up for his strictness with humor. He was a master dancer and enjoyed the accolades that people heaped on him for his proficiency. He taught us to be upright and to help people. I was a member of The Boys Scouts. None of my other siblings went into acting however. But they gave me the support when I was starting and saw every play that I did.
After I left Secondary I went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts London(RADA) which was and still is the Premiere school for the performing arts in the UK. School was fun but after l left school things became rather difficult. I was caught in Catch 22 situation. I couldn’t get a job unless I had an agent and no agent would accept me unless I belonged to the union and I couldn’t become a member of the union unless I had a job and of course if you were not a member of the union you could not work. It was a no-win situation until a friend told me about an audition at the BBC Studios, so I went. I think I was the first person to arrive that morning . I got there and met the assistant director who was still putting things in place. He gave me a piece of paper to write my name and my agents number. I used my friends agent, a lady. Immediately I left the audition I called her up. I told her I’d just got a job with the BBC and that officially she was my agent. She burst into laughter but accepted to play along with me. They rang her up and held negotiations with her and that was how I broke in. unfortunately I can’t remember the title of the production
There were a bit hectic times because there was an unwritten law on racial discrimination. Several times I was confronted with racism openly. The film the British Council shows in this regions about life in England is absolutely misleading. I can tell you that there is no place like home. I remember in trying to secure accommodation I went to places were I was categorically told that blacks were not allowed. I went to a house and knocked on the door and a lady said “can’t you see? No blacks.” I had to sit myself down and decide what to do. I locked my door and removed the phone and reflected. I had to make up my mind that if I was going to function in that society I had to learn and be useful to my people. I squared my shoulders and decided to bear the discrimination. I registered with a sports club, a horse riding club. I already had access to horses having grown up in Kano. I had a positive attitude concerning all that was happening around me which was how I grew. As I also grew in the industry I attended less auditions and started getting more appointments. I got to the point where I was headlining shows getting jobs where I was promoting white actors. If I were white there was no way they could touch me. I would have probably been the greatest now. The journey back home started in 1980.
I almost lost a job. Roman Polanski the great Polish and Hollywood Director wanted me to play in his movie Pirates. That was also the time the NTA wanted me to come and develop Second Chance. I told Peter Igho I had to go back to London. I got to London on Sunday went to the French Embassy picked up my passport, went to Paris and met with Roman but that wasn’t my first. My first International movie was Ashanti which came before Dogs of War. But Pirates was the most challenging. It was shot in Rome, Seychelles, Malta, Tunisia and Morocco The experience of Seychelles was beautiful. There was one whole week when I was the only actor working. It was stressful but the kind of experience that one cherishes.
My wife is my jewel. Most people think that we met in England but that wasn’t the case. We were rehearsing the play to celebrate Nigeria’s independence and we were having a production meeting when she walked in. I took a look at her and told them, “Gentlemen behold my wife”. That was how we met and started. She’d gone to another prestigious school in England Weber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts.
LOSING YOUR BABY
It was like the ground opened and was removed from under someone’s feet. She went in for a routine surgery to straighten her bow legs. Three hours later nothing. They called us and said the operation was fine but she went into a kind of coma and stayed in coma for four days and on the fifth day she died. I was performing in the stage play Ovarehwhen Nogbaisi by Ahmed Yerima of The National Troupe then. I still performed on that night before telling the stage manager. She had come to watch the play before going in for the surgery. We saw her go but we never saw her come out. This was in 1996 and after about a year or two years we decided that we should try for another baby. And he would be nine this September his name is Olugbenga. He has an elder brother Olusoji who is in Cameroon University Oklahoma in U.S.A.
Nollywood is something that must and will remain and grow. It is the beginning of a greater movement. For the first time in the history of the black man we have our own things to relate to. We are not living a life that has been designed for us by somebody else. We are not telling stories that have been given to us by Caucasians but our own stories, based on our culture and tradition. We now have our own “gods” and not the White Man’s God. It is gratifying that the entire continent of Africa has been re-colonized by Nigeria. We have been invited by different countries in Africa to kick start their own film industries. It is most exciting. What we have not done is to put ourselves on a proper footing. The artistry and techniques that run a film industry was not developed. We need the right infrastructure. We need a government that should understand the power and influence of culture. In this regard, the government has not done well. We need money. The marketing and distribution side is vital to the industry. We are running under our own steam. It is imperative that when a movie is coming out, it comes out everywhere at the same time. You know must people think that Nollywood is a thing for now but I was here before the beginning and I am an eternal optimist. The fire that is burning inside me is still as hot as it was when I started. We must have a proper structure to build for our children. Our leaders did not have anything to sell this to us it started with us so it is our own thing, something that is originally and genuinely Nigerian. Our youths now have Nigerian stars Instead of foreign stars to look up to. There is a lot of work to be done but we are not afraid of the work.
- Vanguard Article: I disobeyed my dad to become an actor – Olu Jacobs
- Nollywood Photo Blog Article: Getting Personal with Olu Jacobs